Friday 16 August, 2013
Most major credit card companies are now offering ‘smart cards.’ These are new credit cards that have an RFID chip installed. RFID is a technology that transmits data using radio frequencies rather than the old technology of a magnetic strip that you swipe.
The main advantage is the added convenience – you no longer have to swipe the card. You also don’t have to worry about the strip getting scratched or wearing thin. The RFID chip transmits the information to a reader so you don’t even need to pull out your card.
The Risks of RFID
But the RFID chip also comes with a serious risk. With a traditional credit card, someone has to physically obtain the card and swipe it to get your personal and financial information. Not so with the smart card. All a person needs is an RFID reader, which is available on eBay for under $10, and to be close enough to you that they can read the chip.
Credit card companies don’t ask you before they put your financial and personal data at risk. But fortunately, there hasn’t been a major problem with the smart card yet. Companies that use RFID have ensured that there is plenty of protection. But if you’re worried about broadcasting sensitive information with your credit card, here are some things to keep your information protected.
For Home Use Only
One way to stay safe is to keep your credit cards at home and take them with you only when you need to make a purchase, or only use them for online purchases. A person with a reader has to be physically close to you in order to pick up the signal.
Another option is to get an RFID-proof wallet or card case. These are made of aluminum or nickel-impregnated material, creating what’s called a Faraday cage, which prevents electromagnetic pulses from traveling in or out. These cases have been tested by Popular Mechanics and proven to successfully shield RFID chips.
Wrap Your Cards
A cheap alternative to the above is to wrap your cards in aluminum foil for approximately the same effect. The coverage is not as thorough as using a wallet or case and it hasn’t been proven effective by studies, but the aluminum should deflect electromagnetic pulses.
Put Your Cards Together
It’s been reported that if you place your RFID-embedded cards next to each other in your wallet, there is less chance that any one of them will be readable. The signals get jammed when RFID chips are close together. You can then take out the appropriate card only when you’re paying for a purchase.
Review Your Statements
Whether you use any protection or not, keep a close eye on your statements to make sure there isn’t any discrepancy. If someone has stolen your information with an RFID reader, you can get your credit card company to remove the charges.